Cinema & Television Arts, English faculty present collaborative film adaptation research at Literature/Film Association Conference

Assistant Professor of English Dan Burns and Assistant Professor of Cinema & Television Arts Kai Swanson presented their collaborative research at this year’s Literature/Film Association conference at the University of Montana in Missoula.

Elon University faculty Dan Burns and Kai Swanson were panelists at the annual conference of the Literature/Film Association, a scholarly society that promotes the academic study of literature, film, television, game studies, new media and other forms of audio-visual culture.

Inspired by their recent team-taught Literature on Screen course, Burns, assistant professor in English, and Swanson, assistant professor in Cinema & Television Arts, gave a hybrid talk on a panel with the theme “Networks, Multiverses, and (Trans)Media Ecologies.”

Their talk, titled “Direction as Data Extraction: Surveilling Behavioral Surplus in Joseph Kosinski’s ‘Spiderhead,’” explored Shoshana Zuboff’s theory of “behavioral surplus” in a comparative analysis of George Saunders’ short story “Escape from Spiderhead” (2010) and director Joseph Kosinski’s recent Netflix Original adaptation, “Spiderhead” (2022). Reading the work’s “clinical trials” context as an allegory of surveillance capitalism, they argued that Kosinski’s modernist and postmodern production design evokes the data-gathering practices mobilized by corporate interests outside of their users’ awareness and autonomy—a new prediction market that maximizes profits through the harvesting of personal information.

Hosted by the University of Montana this year from Sept. 21-23, the Literature/Film Association is currently the largest and most active scholarly society in the United States devoted to the study of literature and film.